It's always worth it

Seeing the world for "runcations" can be a once in a lifetime travel and fitness experience

Seeing the world for "runcations" can be a once in a lifetime travel and fitness experience
Runcations can give you a chance to see amazing things. Jovan Abernathy.

Jovan Abernathy is the owner Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your Brewery and Mural Tour, Message her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

My name is Jovan and I’m a chronic marathoner with an addiction to “runcations.” 

You might be wondering what a “runcation” is. It is a vacation that is taken specifically to run a 5K, 10K, Half, full, or ultra marathon. Then there’s the vacation part. Once you cross the finish line, you are on vacation!

I personally have run half and full marathons on the rolling hills of San Francisco, the Diamondhead of Honolulu, from Asia to Europe on the Bosphorus bridge, on the Great Wall of China, and with the Big 5 in Zimbabwe. I fit into a small tribe of people who run these races. I know this because when I talk about it, most people are still amazed and want to know what it must take to complete one of these races. I get questions like: How did you chose that race? What did you learn? And was it worth it?

And there is a demand. If I asked 10 people to make a bucket list, running a half or a full marathon would be on seven of them. I’m here to tell you, you should take a runcation, what to look out for, and no matter what happens along the way, why it is always worth it. I've made a guide for you in hopes to turn you on to this somewhat new, highly farfetched, but very attainable goal. I’ve listed all my runcations with three takeaways: the thing that hooked me, the thing that got me, and what makes it worth it every single time!

Let’s get this out of the way. Unless you know someone or have a lot of reward points built up, these trips are expensive. Expect to spend $2000-$10000. Even more amazing is I did this on a waiters salary. Thanks Houston!

San Francisco Half Marathon

The thing that hooked me: I needed to run a half marathon before I ran the Houston full marathon and I had never taken a vacation as an adult. Who wouldn’t want that?

The thing that got me: Watch out for that Golden Gate Bridge. It is the hardest kind of hill to climb. It is a very slow rise. You have to put in this effort that never ends.

Thing that made it worth it: Napa Valley. The Golden Gate Bridge will kick your ass, but it is the gateway to wine heaven. Being a part of the restaurant industry, I was able to score a stay at Franciscan Winery.

Honolulu Full Marathon

Hook: Its Hawaii, hello.

Got me: At the pre race luau, I got food poisoning on some chicken. I had diarrhea until the night before the race. This should have taught me to watch what I put in my mouth before the race.

Worth: You mean besides getting to island hop in Hawaii? Oh that’s right. I totally met this pro golfer on the plane and we hung out the entire time we were in Honolulu. He was there competing in a tournament in Maui. It was not like that, but don’t tell my mother.

Istanbul, Turkey

The hook: I got to run from Asia to Europe on the Bosphorus Bridge. What are you kidding me? Not a lot of people can say that.

Got me: This race was hard from the genesis of training to the plane ride home.

  1. So, I should have learned back in Hawaii not to just put anything in my mouth, but I didn’t. Two days before the race, we went to dinner and enjoyed this delicious cucumber, tomato, and dangerous microbe salad. We threw up all night long. We didn’t have time to fully recover for the race, so we pretended to be well just long enough to finish the race. I still finished in 5:35.. To this day, Imodium AD is the first thing in my suitcase.

  2. Choose your travel companions carefully. They can be a blessing and a curse. Don't get me wrong, it was a once in a lifetime chance to run from Asia to Europe in one of the oldest cities in the world whose history goes back to Apostle Paul’s day. But traveling with an immature woman who apparently did not care that Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden a couple hundred miles away and that we were far from Discovery Green blew my mind and made for a wasted $10,000 trip.

  3. Only because I’m so resourceful, I decided to make this trip count. The island of Crete was my last stop before heading back. Yeah, I know, who goes to Crete? I made my flight by only six minutes. When I got to the resort I was staying, I had dinner and drinks plus one more then retired to the beach beds with my iPod. It was me, the stars, and the Adriatic Sea. Really, I was the only person out there. So what do you think I did? The only thing I could do: I cranked up my music and danced dirty on my beach bed for 2 hours non-stop. You know like that housekeeper on Billy Idol’s Rock the Cradle of Love video? No one saw and if they did, then good for them. Pleeease don’t tell my mom.

Now that we are close. (I’ve shared some pretty personal things with you.) After that last Marathon, I took some time to recover. A few things happened. I ran the Austin half. It was weird to say the least. The Texans almost won the Super Bowl (OK, not really), and my favorite Beastie Boy died. After all that, I needed to run the race to end all races.

Great Wall Half Marathon

The Hook: I do mean a half marathon on the Great Wall of China! This was it. I knew something special was going to happen. If you are a runner, go run that! Besides, isn’t Thailand on that side of the world?

Got me: It’s full of challenges. Straight out of the gate, you literally have to run up a mountain to get to the Wall. The Wall is made up of stairs and walkways. It is the most intense stair climbing workout I’ve ever had.

Worth it:

  1. During the race, the whole town comes out to see you. The children are wearing China’s colors. They come for candy and to take pictures with you.

  2. There is a celebratory banquet at the end in Beijing with any type of food you could want.

  3. I could not wait to go to Thailand. Bangkok was amazing. The food was amazing. I would have green curry for breakfast, yellow curry for lunch, pad woon sen for dinner, and pad Thai in between…...There was this place called Lumpini Park that has 4 foot Monitor lizards walking around it….. I got to take care of an elephant for a day….. I got onto a cage full of tigers...and I came back alive.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Hook: AFRICA, say no more. You run with the Big 5 game.  On this half marathon course, rangers with guns go before the runners because, you guessed it,  the animals are not in cages.

Got me: This trip was by far the best runcation I’ve ever run. If I could possibly complain about anything, it might be the length of the flight and that some of the African music at dinner seemed inauthentic. I was in Africa for crying out loud.

Worth it: Where do I begin? Oh I know. When I arrived at my hotel. I was given the bad news that they had run out of rooms and the only one they had left was the honeymoon suite. I said “I do!”  As I entered the two-story suite, put my bags down, went upstairs and took a nap.

I woke up just in time to see a family of elephants coming to drink water.

There were baboons at the start line checking the humans out.

On our celebratory Zambezi River Cruise, seven hippos tried to take our boat down. As if.

Don’t even let me tell you about Mama Africa, one of the local restaurants in Vic Falls. If benjy’s in the village circa 2006 were in Africa, that’s Mama Africa.

The last 100 yards to the finish line was in an elementary school yard. Each finisher was handed a popsicle and their medal.

I met two really cool guys from South Africa who confirmed that the African music at dinner was, in fact, inauthentic. I knew it.

So, four years later, I’m about to take my  next runcation to Reykjavik, Iceland., twenty miles from the Arctic. Aurora Borealis. Whale watching. Icebergs, and the Blue Lagoon….of course, buried shark. I already have the Imodium AD packed. I’ll let you know how this one goes when I get back.

 

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Jose Abreu looks lost at the plate. Composite Getty Image.

It’s a long baseball season, sure the Astros have started 4-8, and there are plenty of fingers to point around. But there’s no need to push the panic button.

Not yet.

Last year, the Astros didn’t start much better – they were 5-7 after a dozen games. It just seemed different, though. Nobody was wringing hands over the slow start. After all, the Astros were the defending World Series champions, coming off a 106-win season and figured to make mincemeat of the American League West again. Business as usual.

This year is different. The Astros are losing games in very un-Astros-like fashion. While the starting pitching has been surprisingly fine, at least the starters healthy enough to take the field, the bullpen has been a mess. The back end relievers, supposedly the strongest in all of baseball, have been disappointing. Bryan Abreu’s earned run average is 5.79. Ryan Pressly’s ERA is a sky-high 11.57 and closer Josh Hader, the best shutdown in the bigs, is at 6.00. The Astros are losing games late.

The Astros starting rotation is comprised mostly of seat-fillers. The Astros are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room for Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers to be declared fit for battle. McCullers’ contribution to the team in recent years has primarily been confined to H-E-B commercials.

Impatient fans and copy-hungry media need a target to blame for the Astros’ slow start and they’ve zero’d in on first baseman Jose Abreu.

For good reason. Abreu, 37, a former American League MVP, is being paid 19.5 million this year and next. He is having a miserable time at the plate. Originally slated for No. 5 in the batting order, now dropped to No. 7 and sinking in the west, Abreu is hitting a paltry .088. But that number actually is deceptively positive. He has three hits (all singles) in 34 at bats, with 12 strikeouts, no home runs and no RBI. Frankly one of Abreu's singles was a pity hit from a friendly scorekeeper who could have given Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. an error on Abreu’s weak grounder Tuesday night.

We can go all-analytics and brain-busting stats to explain Abreu’s troubles at the plate. But let’s use simple baseball language: Abreu is horrible. He’s done. Maybe it’s time for the Astros to cut bait. He is untradeable.

Abreu had a disastrous 2023 season, batting .237, the lowest average of his 11-year career. But after 12 games last year, he was hitting .271, not bad at all. Or as Larry David would say, pret-tay, pret-tay, pre-tay good.

This year he’s fallen off the end of the Earth. Fans groan as he swings meekly at breaking balls outside the zone. Or he fails to catch up to 95 mph-plus. Or he can’t connect on low inside pitches. Look, when you’re batting .088, it’s all bad.

Last year, the Astros actually had two, as Little Leaguers put it, automatic outs in the lineup. Abreu hit .237 and catcher Martin Maldonado blasted .191.

This year, it’s a tight battle between who’s the worst of the worst. Maldy is hitting .091 with two hits in 22 at bats and no RBI for Abreu’s old team, the Chicago White Sox. Abreu is hitting .088 for Maldonado’s old team, the Astros. This could go down to the last week of the season.

If Abreu is still with the Astros at season’s end. The Astros are no longer the high exalted dominant force in the American League West. They can’t afford an .088 hitter in the lineup. They can’t play eight against nine.

It didn’t help when manager Joe Espada recently said, “I got a ton of confidence in Abreu. I'm not going to talk about strategy. José Abreu has been a really good hitter for a very long time, and I have 100 percent confidence in José that, at some point, he's going to start hitting.”

How long is at some point? Didn’t Astros fans go through this last year with manager Dusty Baker refusing to sit Maldonado despite Maldy killing rallies in a tight pennant race?

The Astros don’t have a strong support system, especially backing Abreu at first base. But there are options. Mauricio Dubon is a jack of all trades. He could play first. Despite the funny line in Moneyball, first base statistically is the easiest position to play in baseball. Backup catcher Victor Caratini can fill the gap until the Astros sign a free agent first baseman.

Or the Astros could do something that would light a fire under fans: call up rookie Joey Loperfido, who’s belted five homers and driven in 13 RBI in 10 games for the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.

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